Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

I hate cell phones.

Mind you, I have a cell phone. My cell phone is kind of a necessary evil these days. At first I got a cell phone because I was supposed to see clients in the psychology department clinic, and I needed a phone number that wasn't my home number and wasn't either of the numbers I shared with about eight other students. So I got a cell phone.

Even though I ended up not seeing anyone in the department clinic, my phone was still useful. My minutes were free after 9pm and on weekends, and, owing to my long-distance relationship, I tended to make a lot of long-distance calls. My cell phone turned into a cost-saving measure. Then my mom got a cell phone, on the same plan as I had, and so we could talk to each other for free whenever we wanted. It was still a cost-saving measure, I swear.

But here's the thing I hate about cell phones. Cell phones feed right into our collective quest for instant gratification. They promise to make you constantly accessible. But they accomplish this by interrupting whatever it was you were just doing. Call waiting (which I've never had on my regular phone, and which I turned off on my cell phone) lets your phone interrupt you while you're already using it. How arrogant can a little piece of circuitry get?

According to a collection of polls, 15 percent of US respondents have answered their cell phones during sex, 38 percent said it was okay to use a cell phone in the bathroom, and 87 percent said the most frequent forms of bad behavior they observe involve... the cell phone.

There's an interesting corollary of this instant gratification business, which is that people get phenomenally stupid when their gratification is delayed. My cell phone number is made up of 4 different digits. Anecdotal evidence (i.e., my own observations) suggests that the potential for misdialing is inversely related to the number of unique digits in a phone number. Less variety, more misdialing. I, of course, get a lot of wrong numbers. Most of these calls start out like this:

me: Hello?
other person: Hello?
me: Yes, hello?
other person: HelLO?
me: Yes?
other person: helLOOOOO?!?!

And very often they proceed like this:

me: Who are you trying to reach?
other person: helLOOO?!?!
me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.

One call went like this:

me: Hello?
guy: Hey, Jeff!
me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.
guy: Jeff! How's it going?
me: I'm sorry, I'm not Jeff. You really do have the wrong number.
guy: Is Jeff there, then?
me: No, this is my personal phone, and I don't know Jeff.

And this one is my favorite:

Pay phone in Muir Woods, CAme: Hello?
crazed-sounding woman: Hello?
me: Yes?
CSW: helLOOO?!?!
me: Yes? Hello?
CSW: Is this the pharmacy?
me: No, I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.
CSW: But I called the pharmacy. This is the number for the pharmacy!
me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.
CSW: Why isn't this the pharmacy?
me: Because you've called my personal phone.
CSW: What's the number for the pharmacy, then?
me: What pharmacy are you trying to reach?
me: I'm sorry, I really can't help you, except that this isn't your pharmacy.

I am not making this up. And I don't think she was trying to reach Walgreens, if you know what I mean.

I don't know why it is so hard for people to say "is so-and-so there?" as soon as I pick up the phone. And if one is trying to call Joe's Pharmacy, and the person on the other end doesn't say "Hello, Joe's Pharmacy," the proper thing to do is to ask, "Is this Joe's Pharmacy?"

But at the same time, that "hello" dance cracks me up every time.

1 comment:

Chip the magic catfish said...

On time this woman called me asking for a fellow named Pete. I tried to explain to her that she had called my cell phone and I wasn’t Pete, I didn’t know a Pete and I had never, pre-op or past life (to the extent of my knowledge of such things) been a Pete. Things got pretty tense…she all but suggested that Pete was either in the room stifling laughter or bound and ball-gagged in the trunk of my car. Finally she hung up with a threat of calling back when she found out what my nefarious plot was. She never actually did call back, but it’s interesting that at no point during the conversation did she entertain the idea that she had the wrong number. Feeding back into your point about instant gratification, the elephant in the entire conversation was the vague notion that, even if all my claims about my non-Pete proximity were true, I still had some sort of moral obligation to find Pete and put him on…it wasn’t just annoying that I wasn’t Pete, it was also my fault.